“It was love at first sight.”


Catch-22 tells the story of Yossarian, a bombardier with the US Army Air Corps during WWII. Yossarian becomes convinced that the military will never let him go home as they keep raising the required number of missions – so he seeks another way out. In 2011, we finally found my grandfather’s war diary; this was the diary my father always said I should compare to Catch-22. What followed was years of research and a realization that Papa Julie’s World War II story was known by millions, but somehow eluded those of us closest to him.


Joseph Heller

When asked about how he conceived of Catch-22, Heller mostly stuck to a similar answer as he gave George Plimpton when interviewed by the Paris Review in 1974:

“I was lying in bed in my four-room apartment on the West Side when suddenly this line came to me: “It was love at first sight. The first time he saw the chaplain, Someone fell madly in love with him.” I didn’t have the name Yossarian. The chaplain wasn’t necessarily an army chaplain—he could have been a prison chaplain. But as soon as the opening sentence was available, the book began to evolve clearly in my mind—even most of the particulars . . . the tone, the form, many of the characters, including some I eventually couldn’t use. All of this took place within an hour and a half. It got me so excited that I did what the cliché says you’re supposed to do: I jumped out of bed and paced the floor. That morning I went to my job at the advertising agency and wrote out the first chapter in longhand. Before the end of the week I had typed it out and sent it to Candida Donadio, my agent. One year later, after much planning, I began chapter two.”

Joseph Heller in interview with George Plimpton, The Paris Review (Issue 60, Winter 2974)

https://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/3894/joseph-heller-the-art-of-fiction-no-51-joseph-heller

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